Thursday, May 3, 2012

Standing In Our Truth Gathering 2012 Recap.

Standing in Our Truth Gathering 2012

A Gathering was held at the Thunderbird House, Winnipeg Manitoba on March 21 to 23, 2012. It was a Gathering for all people working for the Creator and living life in a Good way.
The Gathering began with the coming of the Thunderbirds. A Sweatlodge Ceremony was held at the beginning of the week for the people of the Gathering. The Sweatlodge took place at the home of Lawrence Henry from Roseau River, Manitoba.  It was here that good thoughts and good life was asked for all the people coming to and involved in the Gathering.

The Gathering brought out a number of Elders, Traditional Healers, Teachers and Helpers to share the Teachings, their thoughts and ideas with the community. Although an agenda was developed the Gathering grew into something other than the programmed agenda. A number of Traditional people were on hand to offer Teachings and thoughts for the community in attendance.

The Gathering was held for many reasons; one being that we need to hear more from our community and our Teachers. 

It became apparent that the Gathering was meant to occur at this time. The Thunderbirds were present at a time of year when they are normally quiet. A Thunderbird Pipe was shared among the people. The Pipe was given to a young Woman to share with the People. This Pipe had not been brought out in a long time. One Woman was asked to smoke the Pipe, turned out she shares the name of Pipe.  The Background story of where the Pipe came from was shared with the people.

The Grandmothers Council is a group of Women that are dedicated to the safety of our youth and for the Women. The Grandmothers hold a Walk that is reaching National and International audiences. Indigenous people are worried about their Women. As a group these Grandmothers are asking why are Women being killed and going missing.  Why is there so much violence within and towards our youth. Grandmothers (Kookumag) say they are going to continue to stand-up for the youth and for the women.

Some Elders and Teachers realize that change can be made working within the system that currently exists. Use your talents and get into the system, but remember your Teachings. Try to work within to educate those that are ignorant of our culture and our issues. While some say that the system must be shaken-up; we are on the outside of the mainstream and must use our voices in a manner that alerts people of the wrongs that exist. In both instances the concept is to continue to work for your people. Working the people is akin to working for the Creator. Whenever you look at someone, remember that person is a Child of the Creator.

The Elders, Teachers and the Ogichidaakwe (Ogichidaa * Elder stated that really Ogichidaa denotes both Women and Men) are really worried as to the state of the world. We are battling to save the Earth. We cannot be apathetic when it comes to voicing and acting to save the Forests, the water, the air and the animals. The Ogichidaa invite people to come and join them. More men are needed to walk with the women. The passion in the voice of the Ogichidaawke is strong.  Seek them out and join them.

A number of Elders worry about the death of our Languages. We need to start speaking at every opportunity. The Creator gave us a language. It is important to keep that Language going and being heard by our young ones. It must not die. Learn your name in the Language that the Creator gave to you. Introduce yourself in that way. Do not be discouraged and keep trying. Seek out the Teachers.  It is a beautiful language that must continue for time immemorial.

Many Elders made open invitations to come and see them. Approach them. They have knowledge and are willing to share with you. Many of the Women need to know about their Roles and how special they are. How they are keepers of the Water. Invitations from the Elders are sincere and heartfelt.

Within the Traditional community there are those that may do wrong. Whether it is misguided efforts or for personal gain on their part; the consequence is far reaching. The consequence of one individual’s mistake may reflect on the larger community. That is something that many Elders and Teachers are concerned about. In other Indigenous communities they have developed systems to recognize their circles. This is something that may be useful in Manitoba, if people could develop a system that assists the wider public in knowing who is who in the Traditional community. It is a continuous issue but one that the Traditional Circle is willing to look at. A first step could be a list of who is available in the community as a resource.

There were many Teachers and Teachings to hear at the Standing in Our Truth Gathering.  We also must always remember Protocol. There are steps to be taken in passing on Traditions. Do not take shortcuts. If you do not know protocol just ask. Remember to start with Tobacco. It is a time honoured Tradition and must not be taken for granted.

The Gathering was a success as it had many different people speaking and taking part. The Gathering was a result of volunteer efforts by many people. No funding was available for the event and it was left to various individual to support the event. Miigwich, there are many of you that took part. Many of you shared your experience, your advice,  your words of comfort and Teachings for the people in attendance. Many of you that took charge at the Gathering; looking after the people. We are sorry not to name you all, because there are so many of you good hearted people.

What Next?
The amount of violence, domestic violence against women continues. The number of young Aboriginal people being killed and hurt is staggering. The push towards environmental damage is unheard of. The troubles for Indigenous people continue to mount. We need access to the Elders, Teachers and our Healers. There is more to the community than “just the streets”. If you look you fill find. The Elders are reaching out. Make the effort to see them. They are there to help you and will help.

The Elders know that it is not easy to be Aboriginal in today’s world. The world has changed so much.  Life is hard in this world. Being a young Aboriginal person does not mean a short life. There are opportunities out there for you. Reach out to the Traditional people. They will guide with the help of the Teachings.

Thunderbird House is a focal point in the City of Winnipeg. The Elders are asking that the larger community and the Aboriginal Leaders lend their voice to the sustainability of Thunderbird House. Our Traditions and Ceremonies can happen in Winnipeg as well as the local communities. First Nations, Metis and non-Aboriginal people are all welcome at the Circle of Life: Thunderbird House. Let’s keep it in our minds and our hearts.

The Grandmothers are going to continue in their quest to be heard and to continue to speak out for the young and for the women.
The Ogichidaakwe are going to be standing strong for the people and for the Earth. Join them.
The Elders are kind and willing to share their gifts, their language and the Teachings with anyone that seeks it. Be willing to make the effort. All you need to start is Tobacco. There is a wealth of Resource for you in the Teachings by the Elders.

Please contact Thunderbird House and provide them with list(s) of Elders, Healers, Medicine People, Helpers that you may know. Also with dates and places where Ceremonies are being held. It is a good list for people to know and how to access these people and places. Thunderbird House could give people information as to what is happening in Traditional Country (ie. Sweats, Sundance, Ceremonies, etc.)

There will continue to be events and there will continue to be people willing to give their time for events. Look for those people and those events. Your help is always wanted and needed.

*Note From Mitch Bourbonnier, MC for the Gathering.

“I will share with you some of my thoughts about the gathering.  First off, I would like to thank you, Cheryl James, and Chickadee for being the energy behind this gathering.  Others to thank include Calvin and Noonda who helped out and cooked.  Also Elma who sang for us.  The Thunderbird House staff should also be applauded.  Having the Men's Drum group Wednesday night and the Women's Drum group Thursday and Friday were important.  The speakers that stood out for me included Billy Schibbler and Margaret Lavallee, Sheryl Blacksmith, the Nepinaks, Jo Seenie Redsky, Lawrence Henry, and Johnny Hawk.  In particular, I was quite moved by Melvin Swan's words and the pipe ceremony he did on Wednesday night.  Finally, I would like to acknowledge the different groups who attended including, Rossbrook House, David Livingston School, The Eagle's Nest Program, Yellowquill College, and the Red River Languages program.  There were a couple of moving moments involving youth.  One was Calvin, a young man from Eagle's Nest, doing a song surrounded by supporters.  The other was three young children from David Livingston bringing and offering medicines to the Grandmothers.  Hopes this helps.
Mitch  Bourbonnier  

Standing In Our Truth
Gathering March 21, 22, 23, 2012

March 21, 2012                  6pm -9pm
Pipe Ceremony – Lawrence Henry. Roseau River Okijidaa
Opening Remarks – Barbara Nepinak, Chickadee Richards, Sheryl Blacksmith
Introductions of Elders/Healers/Teachers/Helpers
What is our goal? What would the people like to see? What are the issues we face? What should our Roles be? Should there be a data base of Elders?
Melvin Swan – Protecting Our People. Role of a Warrior.
Michael Champagne – Moderator
Tea – Coffee & Visiting among the People
March 22, 2012                  8am – 5pm
Pipe Ceremony – Margaret Lavalle.  Anishinaabe Elder, Grandmothers Council
Opening Remarks – Billie Shibbler, The Grandmothers Council – We are here.
Panel Discussions – Moderator Michael Champagne & TBA
Panel will include the Elders Council of Thunderbird House, Grandmothers Council, Ogichidakwe, Community Based Elders/Teachers/Healers, TBA guests, (panel open for all Elders to participate)
Moderator will provide Panel with topics and questions
Open discussions from Gathering Participants.
Lunch – Volunteers and food donations needed for the Gathering. Please contact Rose at 940-4240 and let her know if you can help with food or your labour. Miigwich.
Presentation – Johnny Hawk – Anishinaabe Ogichidaa Ontario.  Living as an Ogichidaa.
Break –
Peter Atkison – Anishinaabe.  The Clans and how they are relevant today. What are the Teaching behind the Clans?
Open forum until close
Closing Prayer – Clarence Nepinak   -  Closing Song.   Singers & Drum needed to participate. Please contact Rose.

March 23, 2012                  8am – 5pm
Pipe Ceremony – David Blacksmith Community Elder-Healer
Presentation – Comprehensive Community Initiative on Addictions (CCI) – “Should there be an Elders list for the wider community to have access to?” What happens when a person does wrong and how it impacts the community?
Presentation Jo Seenie-Redsky.  - What is the impact of colonialism? Do we recognize colonialism in our daily actions?
Panel Discussions: What are our roles? Grandmothers Council will lead the Discussions with their presentations.
Lunch – Volunteers needed and food needed.
Ogichida – Lawrence Henry. Meaning of Ogichida.   The Relevance today. 
Panel Discussions – Open forum of the Gathering.  How do we walk what we say? Working for togetherness. How do we stop abuse in our homes, from rogue Teachers?

Where to from here? 
Ceremony Protocol in Place.
Please have your Tobacco, presentations (gifts for Elders), Women Skirts, Moccasins (slippers) Respect and Kindness to your Relatives at the Gathering. 

Sage is needed for Smudge.
*This is not a funded Gathering, it is done by the community for the community. Please come and take part in any way that you can.

·         The discussion started here. Here is part of the process for the Gathering.

What:  A Gathering for Traditional Teachers and Learners.  Four days of Traditional Teachings, instructions and Sharing.

Who:   Comprehensive Community Initiative on Addictions (CCI): Cultural Advisory Council - Clarence Nepinak, David Blacksmith, Jules Lavalle, Barbara Nepinak, Sherryl Blacksmith, et al.
Kokum Kaa Na Da Maa Waad Abignoojiiak Council:  Belinda Vadenbroeck, Mae Louis Campbell, Margaret Lavalle, Mary Courchene, et al.
OgichidaaKwe: Chickadee Richards, Cheryl Edwards, Jo Seenie-Redsky, et al.

For What Reason:  Why Standing in our Truth (standing with our beliefs) as the theme for the Gathering. We must be aware of the situation that Aboriginal people are facing today. The historical relationship we have had with the Earth, the Creator and the change we were forced to go through.  The (past and present) government laws, policies and actions meant to “kill the Indian”, have not left us unscathed.  Today we need to recognize where the hurt has left us in our own homes.
CCI Cultural Advisory Council are saying, “(We) believe our focus should always consider how our efforts will benefit the Children of today and future generations as well”.
Ogichidaakew are saying, “Men need to stand up for the Women and for the children; Where are they?”
Kookumag are saying, “we are tired of losing our children! What is happening to our Children?”
Anishinaabe (The People) are here to stay. They have never gone away. Despite the incredible harsh journey Aboriginal people have had to endure, they are still walking the walk of their Ancestors. The aim of the Gathering is to bring the message to more and more of Our people, that the Healing must start with Us. A great number of us are finding the Path. Becoming aware of the greatness of our people is a good start. With that start we want our Men, our brothers and sisters to each carry the ways of our Ancestors. It is a good path. It is one where we take pride in our People. We care for our people. We stand up for our People.
In Canada our people are hurting themselves: Living in Jails, abandoning their children, abandoning the Elders, killing one another, not talking the Language, abandoning the way of the Creator.
There are many ways of an Ogichidaa/Ogichidaakwe. One is that of a listener. We need to listen to the Wisdom of the Elders. We need to hear the voices of the Grandmothers. We need to stand beside the Women when they are standing up for the people. We need recognize the Earth as a Mother. We need to stand up for the Earth. We need our children to be strong. We need to engage with our Children; To be proud; To care for themselves; To LIKE themselves and To KNOW who they are.
“The Earth will shake like a dog and shed its fleas”. (AC Ross)  Environmental disasters; strange weather patterns; mass political up-rise; Loss of life; violence; and Awareness is happening throughout the World. In our own communities, Grandmothers, Mothers, Fathers, and Children are becoming aware of how important they are in the saving of the world. They need to start with their own homes as a begining. The Kookumag and Ogichidaakwe are working towards the healing of OUR homes. A path of the Kindheart Ones will be found.
“The Grandmothers and Mothers… children need to be inspired.” “Go and be With the gifted ones…the gifted ones are the people of the Heart…and you are out there.” (Dave Courchene Jr.)
One of the biggest threat to Aboriginal people is the loss of their identity. It is not enough to know that they are Aboriginal, it is ESSENTIAL that they know who they are. Who they are in: their history, their ancestors, their beliefs, their life, their relationships with the Creator, the Land, the Air, the Fire, the Universe.
Practically everyone has an idea of the Creation story told by Christianity. But how many Aboriginal people know their own stories?  That is one of the many things that society has taken.  Traditional Teachers are changing that. They are willing to share their knowledge with everyone.
The Gathering is desperately needed.
We can ask what does the Pipe represent? What is the history or significance of the SweatLodge, the Sundance, The Give-Away, the Eagle, the Deceased, the Creation, Nanaboozhoo, Where  are the Ogichidaa, what is an Ogichidaa, and much more.
The Gathering is a starting point. With the knowledge of the Elders Council, the Kookumag, the OgichidaaKwe, and resource people, the people attending will come away with a solid foundation to continue on their path.
Invitations will go out to the Aboriginal community with a focus on the youth, but EVERYONE is encouraged to attend. 

Elders/Teachers/Speakers:  Profiles TBA

How:   Much has to happen in a very short period of time, but it can be done.  The CCI Cultural Advisory Council have a wealth of knowledge in Traditional Teachings. They are determined to be inclusive in the Aboriginal Circle. Open invitations to all Elders, Teachers, Medicine People and Gifted Ones are asked to participate. The Kookumag have a wealth of Teachers that are willing a ready to speak to a Gathering.  They have an outline agenda for a day gathering. The Kookumag are local so readiness is not an issue. The OgichidaaKwe are very active in networking, organizing and engaging the community; both the Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal community. They have a number of speakers that are willing to come and share knowledge with the larger community – specifically youth. The OgichidaaKwe are inviting well respected speakers from the four directions.  Each of the people invited are Ogichidaa in their own ways. A number of volunteers required. Fire keepers. Food helpers. Elders’ Helpers. Security. Information People.
Outcomes – Deliverables: Need a person to record the event. Publish a book (perhaps) on the Teachings, that may be used by The People. A video for showing.  A report for Thunderbird House and community stakeholders and the public.  Need someone to write a narrative of the event.
Needs:  A small amount of cash is required to insure that the Gathering will happen and be successful. With any Gathering, there is the issue of accommodation, advertising, organizing, necessities. This Gathering is no different.  No fees will be giving to speakers or guests.
Suggestions of appropriate Teachers is welcome.  The goal is to have an open field when it comes to Teachers/Elders. Everyone has something to offer.  No fees will be provided for speakers and guests.For accommodations, it will be a call out for volunteers to host the guests in their homes.  That is something that we are very confident that will occur.
Firewood and Grandfathers (rocks) will be needed for Sweatlodge and Sacred Fire. Fire Keepers and Helpers will be needed.
Anything Else? Agenda:  This is a Teaching Gathering. Ceremony Protocol expected to be adhered to.

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